Circus Performer Injury

Circus PerformerCircus performers are often kept out of the limelight when it comes to entertainment and performances. The crowd-pleasing, high-octane performances associated with the 20th century, to the amusement of parents and children alike, have dwindled. With the demand for other forms of entertainment, such as movies, musicals, and live concerts, in addition to pressure from animal rights groups, the industry has taken a hit. One notable example was the conclusion of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s 146-year run, from 1871 to 2017.

Circus workers are in the business of putting on a show. Often, their behind-the-scenes rehearsing consists of countless hours of preparation, not to mention the additional time it takes to undergo rigorous exercise and cross-training. At any point, making a mistake could risk catastrophic injury. There are many types of circus performers, including:

  • Acrobats
  • Clowns
  • Animal trainers
  • Ventriloquists
  • Magicians
  • Jugglers
  • Tightrope walkers
  • Dancers
  • Hand-balancers
  • Fire-eaters
  • Mime artists
  • Trapeze artists
  • Gymnasts

Examples of Accidents

As a circus performer, an injury can be life-changing, and possibly end your career. It is not uncommon for performers to fall. One example was Yann Arnaud, a longtime aerialist who worked for Cirque du Soleil. In 2018, his hand slipped off the double rings, precipitating a 20 feet fall, and a fatal accident.[1]

At another Cirque do Soleil show, Sarah Guillot-Guyard, a 31-year-old mother, was performing while her safety harness shredded, leaving her to fall 94 feet. She sustained fatal injuries. In one of the most technically challenging performances for the company, Kà had one of the highest rates of serious injuries for any workplace in the country, an imaginably difficult feat to accomplish.[2]

At a Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus in Rhode Island, eight acrobats were severely injured when a metal clip that suspended them 20 feet above the floor snapped. They all sustained life-altering injuries, and years later, were able to reach a $52.5 million settlement with the venue.[3]

In many instances, circus performing accidents happen not because of misjudgment or a lack of training from the performer, but because of issues beyond the control of the performer, such as a wire, harness, or clip breaking. These accidents can be prevented with an adequate inspection of the facility, yet due to the nature of circus performing work, compounded with human error of inspectors and performers, it is difficult to prevent all catastrophic injuries. At other times, too much relies on the decision-making, alertness, and judgment of the performer, whereby an accident could happen should there be a lapse in any of these qualities.

Circus Worker Injuries

If you are injured at work, you may be devastated at your loss of physical function. If the injury removes you from your ability to work as a performer, it may be more difficult, as you try to support yourself and/or your family. That is why you will want to hire a circus worker injury lawyer who is familiar with workplace laws and is able to provide you with expert representation. There are several types of injuries circus workers may sustain, such as:

  • Strains/tendinopathies
  • Sprains
  • Lacerations/contusions
  • Fracture and bone stress
  • Joint (non-bone and ligament) injury
  • Spine injury
  • Catastrophic brain injury
  • Death

Workers’ Compensation

Unfortunately, independent contractors are not afforded the same level of work-related protections as employees. The process of obtaining workers’ compensation for them is more difficult. However, your contract does not officially designate you as an independent contractor; state law does. For this reason, those working as independent contractors may still qualify for workers’ compensation if it can be proven that they are employees.

Circus performers who suffer occupational exposure should know that they may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” insurance program. If you become injured or ill, you do not need to prove that your employer or a co-worker was at fault. Conversely, you do not need to prove that you are not at fault for your injury.

If you do become injured, let your manager or supervisor know as soon as possible, in addition to seeking immediate medical treatment. Skipping the first step can complicate your claim. It is also important that you follow medical instruction and avoid engaging in any type of work which could make your injury seem insignificant. Doing so can possibly lead to an aggravation of your injury, if perhaps you decide to undertake something strenuous, such as lawn-mowing, or running a marathon. If you need help around the house or need assistance with daily living, it is important that you contact a family member, or friend.

An injured worker who obtains workers’ compensation can retrieve disability and medical benefits that covers the costs of medical treatment and rehabilitation. They may also be able to retrieve lost wages. An injured worker obtaining permanent disability benefits is paid weekly at a rate at 70% of their average weekly wage.

If you have a family member who sustained a fatal accident as a circus performer, you and your family may be eligible for death and survivor benefits, which could also cover funeral and burial costs. Children and dependents of the deceased may be entitled to a weekly death benefit covering 70% of the deceased’s weekly wage immediately prior to death.

Call us Today

At Livingston DiMarzio, we recognize the precarious nature of circus work. The possibility of injuries, along with the training and conditioning needed to enthrall audiences, in addition to traveling, makes it a difficult but rewarding career. People go into circus work not only because of the camaraderie developed between performers, but also to invest in one’s own creativity, and for the freedom it allows.

Whether you have developed repetitive motion injuries, or sustained an accident, our circus performer injury lawyers are here to help you. Our team of attorneys is transparent in walking you through every step of the process. We’ll inform you on what you can expect when you file a claim. In addition, we work on a contingency fee. If we choose to take your case, you only pay if you win. Call us today for a free consultation at (973)-943-4106 or reach out with a case form.


[1] Neuman, S. (2018, March 19). Cirque du Soleil Performer Falls to his Death During Show in Florida. NPR. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from,Cirque%20Du%20Soleil%20Performer%20Falls%20To%20His%20Death%20During%20Show,at%20a%20hospital%20on%20Sunday.

[2] Berzon, A., & Maremont, M. (2015, April 22). Injuries Put Safety in Spotlight at Cirque du Soleil. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from

[3] The Boston Globe. (2020, December 21). Acrobats Hurt in R.I. Circus Accident Reach $52.5 Million Settlement. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.